It’s a phrase we’ve heard a lot in recent years.
Litigation, or lawsuits, against the league have dominated sports headlines this decade. Ex-players want compensation for injuries suffered, while families of dead players seek money on their relative’s behalf.
The first major settlement was a huge $765 million sum agreed between the NFL and former players in 2013.
Since then, the lawsuits have kept on coming making the league one of the most sued bodies in the nation’s history.
Just last year, the family of former Patriots line-backer Junior Seau reached a confidential agreement with the NFL. They accused the league of negligence after post-mortem studies showed that Seau had traces of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) in his brain at the time of death, which seemed to have contributed to his suicide in 2012.
You could say there’s now a claims culture in the NFL. For good or for bad.
Will we continue to see players sue the league?
But how will this impact the game in the future?
Does it affect college and high school football?
While players continue to make claims against the league ,1,753 in the first quarter of last year alone, they face many obstacles to winning settlements in the future.
A recent ruling restricts their access to medical attention, demanding they see a doctor within 150 miles of their home – a huge problem for rural claimants.
Payments to players have been delayed, causing their lawyers to suggest that the league is defrauding them. Some insurance companies have taken advantage of their desperation by offering them high-interest loans while they wait.
They also have fewer grounds on which to make their claims after the NFL started high-profile awareness campaigns, such as the Play Smart Play Safe initiative.This makes it easier for them to say that players were warned of the consequences.
All of this means that players could be discouraged from making a claim in the future. Good for the league you might think, but it might also decrease the number of people wanting to play the sport as a result.
Is the game changing as we know it?
In light of this, we’ve already seen rule changes in football, involving kick-offs and punt returns, as well as newer helmets. This has seen a 30% reduction in concussions.
Besides that, I would also love to see in the near future,
- More Neuro-specialists and physical therapists present beside the field of play.
- An end to Thursday Night Football games, known as the most harmful to players due to low recover times.
- Even more helmets phased out in favor of new, advanced headgear, possibly with sensors.
The game is likely to be subject to further changes, the more litigation the NFL is subjected to and we could go on and on about it.
But what about college and high school football?
The NFL saga has had a trickle-down effect on junior football.
The national college football body, the NCAA, started this year with over 300 lawsuits on their hands. They continue to have former footballers suffering from conditions from headaches to Alzheimer’s disease.
This follows a $75 million pay-out in 2014. The difference here, though, is that the money went to a medical monitoring service and R&D rather than directly to the players.
The challenge for the players is, like with the NFL, pinning the blame on the NCAA.
According to the Guardian, there is a 6.1% decrease in kids starting to play football this year. If this continues then the sport has a problem on its hands: less kids = less potential talent.
If the NCAA and the NFL don’t want this to happen then they must take steps to make player pay-outs more transparent and possibly change the rules of the sport further.
How you can make a claim
If you suspect that you have a lasting injury you suffered while playing football then there are some steps you can take:
- Before you commit money to medical and legal costs, be certain. Did you experience symptoms like headaches before you started playing football? It could be a non football-related condition that you have.
- Sign up for a medical evaluation. Here you can get a professional opinion of not just the injury you have now but also how it’s likely to affect you in the future.
- Get legal help. There are many companies that specialize in such claims and are best placed to advise you on how to proceed. These are the brain injury litigation group or TBI law firms etc. to name a few.First consultancy is normally free, so take advantage of it!
- Spread the word. There will probably be a number of people in your position so letting people know what you do can encourage others to get help.